JCK Silver Spotlight: Silver Streak

Retailers who specialize in silver weigh in on the lines their customers love.

When the economy went south two years ago, silver jewelry became a beacon of hope for retailers scrambling to make sales. After all, consumer spending may have weakened, but the desire to shop was strong as ever. In this post-recession, pre-recovery mindset, retailers nationwide shared the secrets of their silver department successes with JCK, offering up some new—and familiar—names for colleagues to consider when it’s time to restock.

When Janet Holt opened her 1,500-square-foot gift shop called Dazzle! on Memorial Day weekend of 2005, the Charlotte, N.C., merchant reserved 5 percent of her showcases (or, a single 2- by 4-foot glass display) for silver jewelry. For three and a half years, all of it belonged to Pandora, a line she picked up at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market.

A year and a half ago, Holt picked up another silver line to satisfy the demand  for monograms in the South. That acquisition, Waxing Poetic, is rich in tiny pendant necklaces featuring positive themes and sentimental messages, as well as an abundance of letter or initial charms. “People will wear anywhere from three to six pieces on their necks at one time,” Holt says.

The combination of vendors was working out fine until the spring of 2010, when Holt decided to explore other bead brand options. (Pandora had opened two corporate stores in her area and was setting up accounts within Jared the Galleria of Jewelry stores nationwide. “I wanted a brand whose focus was still on the independent retailer,” she explained.) Holt discovered Lovelinks Jewelry, a European company just making its way to the States. She arranged to be the vendor’s first account in North Carolina and, at press time, was awaiting her first shipment.

“What I love about this line is that it’s universal—every competitor’s bead will fit on their bracelets and all of theirs will fit on the competitors’ bracelets,” she explains. Among Holt’s purchases to date: a bead called “Marry Me” that looks like a diamond engagement ring and a number of Murano glass bead sets that offer three or six beads for the price of two or five, respectively. Lovelinks makes sterling and 14k gold beads, but Holt is also a fan of the brand’s gold plate. “For those who love two-tone, this is a much more affordable way to get that,” she says.

Before the downturn—“Charlotte is a banking city slammed hard by the economy,” says Holt—silver ­jewelry accounted for 13 percent of her total sales. Today, silver is still the best-selling product, though it accounts for just 5 percent of all sales. “I’d rather have one or two higher-quality lines than a bunch of lower-quality ones,” she explains. She’s confident she can capture a 2.9 markup on Lovelinks and a 2.3 markup on Waxing Poetic.

It didn’t take long for the Silver Lady in Palestine, Texas, to outgrow its humble origins as a two-cabinet, shopping-mall kiosk. Tina Yancey bought the business in 2003, not long after its inception, relocating it to a 1,000-square-foot shop nearby. Within six months, brisk business forced Yancey to add another 1,500 square feet by knocking down a wall and taking over another storefront. A year and a half later, she relocated down the street to a two-story, 6,500-square-foot storefront, then added another 2,000 square feet two years later. Now three years later…you guessed it, she’s ready to move again. “We’re trying to secure a spot with 10-foot ceilings in the Palestine Plaza,” she says.

Silver jewelry is, of course, the not-so-secret to the Silver Lady’s success. Some 90 percent of her sales come from the category, even though it occupies just 20 percent of the store’s square footage. Her list of vendors is lengthy: Chamilia, Kameleon, Beyond Words, Sarda, Waxing Poetic, Hot Diamonds, Christian jeweler Anita Goudeau, and Thistle & Bee, which is newer to the Silver Lady. Thistle & Bee has “caught on well,” according to Yancey. “They make a lot of heavy pieces. It truly is fine jewelry.” Her best seller, though, is Kameleon (see sidebar), the trendy interchangeable line that features a couple hundred different options for center stones in rings. “Customers feel like they’re getting a value,” she says.

Silver Supporters From top: Tom Ozment, Fincher & Ozment, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Tina Yancey, Silver Lady, Palestine, Texas; and Igal Alon, Mavrik Jewelry, Kirkwood, Mo., have seen silver sales grow on the strength of a few strategic lines. For Yancey, the greatest profits come from unbranded jewels that she buys through manufacturers—“from India, California, Mexico, Italy, and China”—or, when she goes to specialty markets (mostly in Dallas), where she sources loose and raw materials to create her own designs. “I have two cases of my own jewelry,” adds Yancey, whose work incorporates freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystals. On all, markups range from three to four times wholesale.

Though Mavrik Jewelry in Kirkwood, Mo., carries high-end jewelry—owner Igal Alon comes from a family of Israeli diamond dealers—its roots are in jewelry that retails for less than $800. In its 4,000-square-foot shop, 25 percent of the space is dedicated to a silver boutique for price-point ­jewelry, including brass and crystal items. In the past two years, sales of silver jewelry have grown 20 percent, but only, says store manager Angel Devine, because of local tastes. “It had nothing to do with the economy,” she says.

Mavrik’s affordable lines include Shab­lool, Nava Zahavi, and Thistle & Bee, which Devine “sold the heck out of” once they added it to the mix in March. “Thistle & Bee is our best-selling silver line,” she says. Among the popular items: weave-motif cuffs, rings, and heavy link bracelets in the $150–$400 range. Devine gets a 2.5 markup on Thistle & Bee, while other lines command triple key.

Though Pandora is the best-­selling silver brand at Fincher & Ozment ­Jewelers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., co-owner Tom Ozment says introducing the Sara Blaine line was a great way to kick off Mother’s Day. “I did three reorders of Sara Blaine in four months,” says Ozment, adding that the timing (and the look) was equally appropriate for high school and college graduations. “Sara Blaine is handmade in Bali, and the price points are $600 and down, which hits a sweet spot,” he says. “It’s also not as chunky as a lot of the other branded sterling lines, though the pieces are still substantial; she’s tailored the line to be everyday casual and dressy.” His markup on Sara Blaine ranges from 2.2 to 2.5—about the same as he secures on Scott Kay Silver, Andrea Candela, and Frédéric Duclos. The markup for Pan­dora, which accounts for 12 percent of Ozment’s silver sales, is keystone—but he’s not complaining. “Nobody has the breadth of product—beads and ­jewelry—that you’ll see in Pandora.”

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